Fix Your Credit...Yourself
Remove inaccurate items from your credit report-FREE
Ok. So, I'm just sick to death of hearing commercials on the radio about how some company (maybe a law firm) will remove negative items from your credit report and increase your score substantially. Followed by the paid actor screaming the testimonials of how he was able to buy a house, boat, car, etc because of this company.
Cleaning up your credit is something you can do by yourself. Like anything in life worth doing, it takes time and effort; but you can do it yourself and save money. You don't have to be a lawyer to read and comprehend, right? Let's get started.
Step 1: Get A Copy Of Your Credit Report.
The first step is getting a copy of your credit report. You can accomplish this in one of two ways. You can pay and gain a copy through the credit bureaus and pay an additional fee for your score if you'd like from: Experian, Transunion and Equifax or you can use the freeannualreport site to get a copy of your credit report. This service is provided to consumers, annually and free of charge as required by the government from the big three credit bureaus. You will not get a copy of your score this way. Links, addresses and websites change regularly, so conduct an internet search to be sure you have the most updated information. As of the time this hub was created, the information is accurate. To get your free report go to: https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action. You will be provided with free online copies of your credit report once you provide security information. You may be able to save the reports for up to 30 days online or print a copy for safe keeping. I recommend you do both, if available.
Step 2: Dispute Negative Items
Once you get a copy of your credit report, you should examine the report for accuracy. Negative and accurate items typically remain on a credit report for seven years. In the case of bankruptcy, it's ten years. If there are items on your credit reports for over seven years, dispute them with the credit bureaus. You can do this online using a dispute form provided by the credit bureaus; or you can write a letter to the bureaus. Search the internet for an online address or phone number for customer service. I have not included this information because information may change over time. The best way to ensure accurracy is to do a search online. But since you have gotten a recent copy of your credit report, the information should be provided on the report.
The dispute should include: the name of the vendor/creditor and the account number. Clearly and succinctly write that the information is outdated based on the lenght of time the account has been on your report, or any other reason that makes the information inaccurate- and you would like for the bureau to delete the item. The bureau will open an investigation into the matter and respond within 30 days. Legally, the bureau has 30 days in which to respond. If the bureau does not respond within 30 days or if the inaccurate information has not been removed and should be follow up with step 3.
Steps to Improving Your Credit Score
1. Get Credit Reports
2. Dispute Negative Inaccurate Items
3. Write Letters to Verify Accuracy of Investigation
4. Pay Off Any Amounts That You Can
5. Open a Secure Credit Card
6. Continue to Improve Your Credit with Good Financial Habits
Step 3: Writing a Letter Asking for Verification
If the credit bureau has not removed information you know to be inaccurate, you may write a follow-up letter asking the bureau to provide proof of verification. You should repeat what you want the bureau to do if they cannot provide you proof of who they spoke with, the title of the person they spoke with, the address and phone number of the company they called and what was asked during the conversation? Tell them that you are within the limits of the Fair Credit Reporting Act and they must reply within 30 days or you will report them to the Federal Trade Commission.
Wait the 30 days if no answer. Send a final letter telling them that you are going to make a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission. If necessary, make the complaint to the FTC.
Zombie Debt/Old Debt
If you are so inclined, you may also pay off old debt for a fraction of the cost by negotiating with the creditor. Tell them you are willing to call the debt paid but can only afford to pay a portion of it. The collection agency or creditor may be willing to accept your offer. Just in case the agency is unwilling, make sure that you are not giving information to the collector that would enable them to start the process over again- such as a recent address or phone number.
A word about old debt. If you have debt that is close to falling off of your credit report, do not make attempts to contact the vendor/agency, this may start the collection process all over again. Let the debt expire.
It will take some time to re-establish your credit, but with the negative items gone, you should see great improvement in your score. You may also want to consider getting a secured credit card to reestablish credit. Secured cards are offered through many reputable banks. You use your own money to secure the line of credit. When you have utilized the account in a favorable way for 6 months to a year, meaning you do not go over the limit and you make more than the minimum payments on time, you can ask the bank to review you for an unsecured line of credit.
If your credit is such that you are insanely overloaded with debt, another option is bankruptcy. Speak with a lawyer about your options for filing bankruptcy.
Once, however, you start to see the increase in your score keep going. Continue to make smart decisions: never spend more than you make, contribute to a savings and or retirement account-no matter how small the amount, stay within your credit limit and use mostly cash to make your purchases. It's not rocket science. With discipline and persistence you can build a better and brighter financial future.